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PRIEST

A World Apart
Scott Stewart assembled a group of highly skilled collaborators, including director of photography Don Burgess, production designer Richard Bridgland Fitzgerald, visual effects supervisor Jonathan Rothbart and animator Genndy Tartakovsky, to bring his vision of Priest's post-apocalyptic world to the screen.

Stewart enlisted Tartakovsky to create an ominous animated prologue that tells the history of the war between vampires and humans. Tartakovsky, a four-time Emmy® winner whose best-known creations include "Dexter's Laboratory,” "Samurai Jack” and "Star Wars: Clone Wars,” jumped at the opportunity to bring his work to a more adult audience.

The look for the prologue began with Min-Woo Hyung's original art. "Scott showed me some of the artwork for the movie, as well as the comic book that it was based on,” says Tartakovsky. "There was a scripted prologue that we followed loosely.”

Every effort was made to honor the look of the characters in the comic book, says Tartakovsky. "Min-Woo Hyung has a very specific style. He uses angular rough lines with a sketchy finish. It is very textural. To make it more appropriate for animation, we made the characters look somewhat different than in the comic book, using it as a reference and taking it in our own direction with it. His influence is always there.”

The animation is hand drawn, with coloring and composting done digitally. In what Tartakovsky sees as an interesting twist, many of the animators had previously worked at Disney. "They were used to animating bunnies and princesses and more normal fare,” says Tartakovsky. "Suddenly they were creating a vampire taking a guy's head off. Executing this has a bit of a learning curve. At the end of the day, the one who ended up doing many of the scenes was a really nice, soft spoken woman. She said she had never done anything else like it, but she totally understood it.”

Richard Bridgland Fitzgerald is no stranger to creating science fiction landscapes. He has lent his talents to stylish films including Resident Evil and AVP: Alien vs. Predator. "Scott had a very clear vision of the world he wanted to create,” says Bridgland Fitzgerald. "This story doesn't appear in the graphic novel, which gave us carte blanche to make our own world. It could've gone in many directions, but Scott was very keen to create a post-industrial landscape as a touchstone for the audience, something that would be recognizable given a twist that makes it into something different. As a designer, a script that allows you to create a whole new world is a real treat.”

Stewart's first directive was that the city would have an industrial look. "Anything we put in there had to reflect heavy industry, including the churches,” says Bridgland Fitzgerald. "The Clergy lives in a separate place closed off from the city, still industrial, but much cleaner. Outside the city had to be an absolute barren desert where nature had been destroyed. We looked for places that had no trees and no vegetation to convey the fact that after the last vampire war, everything had been destroyed.”

In one of the film's first scenes, there is a family living in an outpost in the wastelands and during dinner there is an attack by a band of vampires. The scene sets the tone for the film's anachronistic look, says Stewart. "We see a completely desolate landscape and it looks like the Dust Bowl era, but at the same time we see geothermal heating surfaces and wind turbines and futuristic devices that all look really old.”

Outside of the city the world has become an absolute desert. "One of the big challenges for us was to try and find deserts that had no vegetation to give it an epic look,” says Bridgland Fitzgerald. "That allowed us to get incredibly iconic widescreen shots of a human figure in silhouette. It's the lone hero in the barren outback overcoming all the odds.”

The theocratic city, known as City Five, draws visual references from parts of Hong Kong and Eastern Europe during the Soviet era. "It's a walled city, one of many in which people took refuge back in the days of the wars,” explains the director. "There are smokestacks as far as you can see—even the smokestacks have smokestacks. The tallest building is the cathedral at the center of the city, which is graced by smokestacks as well.

"There are electronic billboards everywhere,” he continues. "They are constantly broadcasting slogans and information promoting the idea that God protects you, the Church protects you, the city protects you, so stay here, don't question and just keep shoveling coal.”

The people of the city live in perpetual darkness and squalor, which their hyper-industrialization has served them up in the form of soot in the air and black ash that streams from the sky. In the middle of a desert, the sun shines all the time, except in the city.

"The city feels cold and very Orwellian,” says Bettany. "And then the wastelands are amazingly desolate locations that are so beautiful. I'd never seen landscape like that before.”

Visual effects supervisor Jonathan Rothbart, who co-founded legendary effects house The Orphanage with Scott Stewart, worked closely with the director and all of Priest's department heads to seamlessly blend the movie's physical world with the digitally constructed one. "This film has all these cool ideas and concepts that needed to be expanded on in post,” he says. "Our biggest challenge on this film was to create a sense of the scope of the world while keeping it all dynamic. My biggest goal is always to be the unseen visual effects. Making the world and the environments and the objects within it seamless is the agonizing part of what we do and the part that I love.

"Because Scott knows where we can take things, he pushed us in some areas,” adds Rothbart. "His background in visual effects allows him come up with grander ideas and it shows in this film. It gave us an opportunity to be really inventive and add something to the scale of the movie.”

Priest's heart-stopping action, acrobatic stunt work and eye-popping effects were tailor-made for 3-D, but its endless vistas and Golden Age patina called for the kind of visual refinement that Scott Stewart felt would be better served by an older technology: anamorphic widescreen film.

"The film was designed for 3-D from the start and we talked a lot of about it during preproduction,” says Stewart. "Ultimately, I decided not to shoot in 3-D because both Don Burgess, my cinematographer, and I wanted to shoot on anamorphic film, to give it that epic movie look.” The director says shooting in film and then converting it to 3-D, gave him the best of both worlds. "We used the old Panavision C-series lenses, the same kind used on films like Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner. Priest is a landscape movie and we were able to give the film that sweeping widescreen quality.

"At the same time we thought the language of a contemporary action horror picture is something that would lend itself to 3-D,” he continues. "Audiences enjoy being immersed in a world, especially a world as unique as the one we've created. We thought 3-D would allow audience to experience it in a more visceral way.”

The filmmakers used a combination of the difficult-to-acquire lenses to achieve the effect they wanted. "There aren't that many of them left,” Stewart says. "And they don't make new ones with the same attributes. Certain filmmakers like to use them, but it's hard to get a complete set. Michael Bay has used them on the Transformer movies; J.J. Abrams has used them on his films. We worked with Panavision to find them.

"Peop

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